As he packs his bags for Beijing to become Israel’s next ambassador to China, outgoing Minister of Homefront Affairs Matan Vilnai insists “there is no room for hysteria as the homefront is prepared as it never was [in the past]” amid reports that paint a less encouraging picture.
YWN-ISRAEL recently reported that the state of the homefront is a far cry from what it needs to be to withstand an Iranian missile attack but Vilnai rejects the criticism, sending a message of assurance and confidence to the nation as he prepares his office for his successor, Avi Dichter, who assumes the post on Thursday, 29 Menachem Av 5772.
Vilnai, a retired IDF major-general explains that “in his professional opinion” the homefront today stands at an unprecedented level of preparedness and as such there is no place for hysteria. “Today all elements of the system are clear as to their responsibilities and there will be no repeat of events in which mayors claim they were unaware of their responsibilities. I say this with a measure of modesty, but I had a central role in this process, backed by the prime minister and defense minister, and today, the homefront is in good shape”.
Vilnai explains that during his tenure the homefront has been prepared to withstand attacks of hundreds of missiles daily in population centers, and the expected death toll would stand at 500. “It is possible there will be even less fatalities. It is also possible there will be more. I had my doubts, but these numbers are the result of the opinions of many experts. This is based on a war involving several front lasting 30 days”. The minister added in an interview with Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet on Wednesday afternoon 27 Menachem Av “things can change with one deadly missile, but there is no place for hysteria”.
When asked to comment on the atmosphere that includes a growing concern or panic among some, Vilnai responded “Just like the Japanese must live with the reality of being prone to earthquakes, Israelis must live with the reality that we may be targeted by missiles. There is no room for panic. The homefront must be ready and residents must learn to cope. The only question remaining is if war is necessary for war is something we seek to avoid and each case must be weighed individually. For the homefront, this is not sympathetic but a decision will have to be made and we must be prepared.”
Vilnai did not wish to comment on a possible Israeli attack against Iran, stating “I don’t wish to be pulled into this but I will state that such a move must be coordinated with the United States, our staunchest ally”.
The outgoing minister added the weak spots are the strategic locations since fortifying them against missile attack has been ignored for years. He explained he was the first to address this and he was the first to request a budget from the prime minister towards fortifying these strategic locations against attacks. “There is always room to do more but at least we can say but I can say that the fortification of strategic locations, primarily electricity stations is underway”.
He confirmed much has to be done but today, “the homefront situation is the best we have known”.
Regarding personal protection kits Vilnai shares the opinion of Defense Minister Barak, that this is not the most important item, adding at present there are enough kits for half of the population. He feels that this however is not a determining parameter towards evaluating the level of preparedness of the nationwide system, and this determination is made by the readiness of the pertinent agencies, which during the past five years have taken part in many training exercises attesting to an unprecedented level of preparedness.
Asked to comment on the appointment of Avi Dichter to replace him Vilnai acknowledge he is pleased, adding “Dichter is an excellent choice” I know him for many years, from our military service together as well. I am comfortable that he will be fine and I will ensure that he receives a ministry in good operating condition”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)